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We were prisoners on the Graf Spee

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We were prisoners on the Graf Spee


We were prisoners on the Graf Spee.
on board the Graf Spee as prisoners were the captains of six British merchant ships, who were uncomfortably aware of the action, although they saw nothing of it. These accounts are due to the Daily Express, Reuters, and British United Press.

Doric StarCaptain Stubbs, of the Doric Star, said it was about six in the morning, when a German officer came down and said, gentlemen, I am afraid we'll have to leave you to your own devices. We didn't know what he meant. Quarters were pretty cramped, right under one of the Graf Spee's gun turrets. Then we heard the roar of guns in the distance and we knew that our lads had spotted the pocket battleship. Next minute the Graf Spee rolled drunkenly. There was a tremendous crash over our heads. She had opened fire. We thought it would never end. We counted 17 hits altogether on the Graf Spee one. Did we'd share in saying? It was the strangest position I've ever known in my 40 years at sea. Some fellows were cool. They had begun shaving before the battle started and they went on shaving. I had a sore throat and was gargling when a fragment of Shell tore into quarters. It did not hurt anyone, but it made me swallow my gargle. The worst part of all was when the Graf Spee's guns just overhead fired. It was like an earthquake. The best part was when the German officer finally came down and said gentlemen, the war is over you. We have just entered Montevideo harbour. That we knew, meant a British victory.

Captain Charles Pottinger, of the steamer Ashlea, which was captured on 7 October 1939, said we were treated flying on board the Graf Spee. Once her commander told me he was proud to say that not a single British life had been lost by his exploits. Mostly we prisoners played rummay and sat around, talked and smoked. The Germans let us keep our money when we were captured, and allowed us to buy cigarettes from their ships stores. Late on Tuesday, 12 December 1939, while I was exercising with Captain Stubbs, of the Doric Star, I noticed an atmosphere of unusual tension on board. Officers began hurriedly inspecting gun stations and controls. A young Lieutenant who had been particularly friendly to us all walked by at that moment, and, while I never expected a reply, I asked him what was the matter. Turning and eyeing me severely, he observed, we were expecting an attack, and I admire the courage of men who plan to attack the Graf Spee with such little ships. About five o'clock on Wednesday morning stopped. Most of the prisoners thought that the sudden lull was due to the fact that the danger was past, and many others dozed. I must have slept several hours, but it seemed like five minutes later when a roar woke me. Commands began to come through a loudspeaker. The Graf Spee's engine revolution changed from steady thud to an almost continuous roar. Suddenly I felt the ship shudder slightly, and the great roar of orders broke out again. This must have been the HMS Exeter's first hit. For the next 40 minutes there was pandemonium. We listened, counting the roars as the Graf Spee's fired. When the count went past 20 we know the Germans have run into something big. We felt the dull thuds that followed every time the British shells found a mark. I don't know whether any of us was afraid to die. I do know that if ever I was afraid of death. It was then. It's one thing to pass out during illness, it's different when you feel fit and strong to be faced with the prospect of drowning slowly behind a locked steel cabin door. The firing stopped suddenly as it had started. It seemed obvious that the Graf Spee must have sunk whatever enemy she had faced. Although normally I am not very religious, I dropped on my knees to pray. I couldn't say what I prayed for, whether it was for my own safety or for the poor lads i thought must have gone down.

Captain Dove, of the Africa Shell, revealed a tributethat one German had paid to the British. After the battle, he said Captain Hans Langsdorff, commander of the Graf Spee, called me to the bridge and said, your cruisers made a very gallant fight. When people fight like that, all personal enmity is lost. Those British hard. Captain Dove added that another officer said to him you fellows have been prisoners here for quite a while. Now it looks as if it's our turn. I was treated all right on board, captain Dove added. I even struck up a friendship with the Commander who instructed a tailor to make me heavier clothes, owing to the cold weather. When the battle started yesterday they bolted the door, and I did not know what was happening until I heard the Graf Spee's guns and felt the impact of the British shells upon the ship's hull. It was a funny feeling. We wanted the Graf Spee to be sunk, but we couldn't help wondering, what would happen to us. Captain Dove said that the German battleship thought she was near some cargo ships when she sighted the cruiser HMS Exeter. The order to man action stations was sounded. I and my colleagues were locked up in the mess deck. The Graf Spee opened fire, and the HMS Exeter immediately replied. According to our reckoning, the Graf Spee was hit at least 16 times. We played cards, including Bridge throughout the battle. One shell exploded near us, and we can splinters of it as souvenirs.



Admiral Graf Spee picture 2

Admiral Scheer picture 1

Doric Star picture 1

HMS Exeter picture 1

HMS Exeter picture 2

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The Second Great War.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton

The War Illustrated.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton

2194 Days Of War.
ISBN-10: 086136614X

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